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Archive for October 29th, 2008

Or maybe that title should read “One of the things I am not very good at.” 

And yes, I just ended two sentences with the same preposition.  I know that’s against the English Majors’ Code of Ethics or something, but whatever. Grammar doesn’t matter when you’re fixing to commence beating up on yourself. 

On with the show.   

Probably one of the simultaneously best and worst inventions known to man is voicemail.  Before there was voicemail there were answering machines, and before that there were people who answered the phone and took messages for other people.  How do I know this much ancient history?  Because, Gentle Reader, back in the last century, I was one of those people who answered the phone and took messages for other people.  That was something called a “receptionist.” 

Back in the last century, a “receptionist” was front and center in a business, answering phones and greeting people.  It was the sort of job that one could be very good at, if one were the chatty type.  Now, I can be sociable when the mood hits me or when the need strikes, but to have to be “on” all the time is exhausting for me.  It’s not how I’m wired, which is to say that I live inside my head a good bit, and that’s okay.  They know me there. 

I was passable as a receptionist, I guess.  I developed a measured phone greeting for the company I worked for, something I didn’t have to think too much about when I picked up the receiver, and I was able to handle walk-in visitors with practiced pleasantness and good old’-fashioned Southern graciousness.  Contrary to popular belief, Southern girls are not born with genteel manners; they are molded in this way by their mothers and grandmothers, and I am here to tell you now, had I not learned the proper graces the family matrons would have stuffed me in a sack and dropped my unrefined butt into the river.  So at least I had that working in my favor when I took that job. 

The most relief I got in that job (next to quitting time, of course) was that hour of the day that I got to turn on the answering machine and go eat my lunch.  I didn’t have to make pleasant small talk with anyone and I most definitely did not have to be “on” during that time.  And then I would come back at the end of my lunch break and take down the messages that were left on the answering machine, without ever having to suffer through pointless chatter with anyone. 

Technology being what it is, though, my days as a receptionist were numbered.  When a bout of severe weather produced a heavy lightning storm that fried the phone system at my job, my company was forced to upgrade their customer communication techniques.  Meaning, the twenty-year-old phone system was so passe that the next-generation phone system we had installed came with cordless handsets and this nifty little thing called voicemail. 

It was all, welcome to the new millennium, folks, and be on the lookout for flying cars.  They’re next. 

So my career as a receptionist was for all intents and purposes over, and I moved on into the glamorous realm that I occupy now — which, maddeningly enough, requires me to talk on the phone to lots of salespeople.  Except now, they want to talk to ME, rather than just pass through me on their way to whomever else they can sell to.  Which is where that nifty voicemail gadget comes in handy. 

I’ve often thought that if I could let loose of my ingrained Southern tact and politeness, I would record an outgoing message that was more truthful than what I currently have.  My outgoing message would then say “Hi, this is Mox.  Leave a message.  If I want to talk to you I’ll call you back.  If I don’t call you back it’s nothing personal, it’s just that I don’t like talking on the phone.” 

See?  Honest and to the point. 

I’m really, really bad about not returning phone calls.  The truth is, I just don’t like talking on the phone.  I screen my calls via voicemail, and I return very few of them.  And now that my phone system also has caller ID, when my phone rings I can look and see whose call it is I’m ignoring. 

Yay for technology! 

Yesterday my phone rang and when I looked to see who it was I saw an unfamiliar number, outside of this area code.  So naturally I didn’t answer it, because see above.  In fact I forgot all about it until this morning when I came in and noticed that I hadn’t picked up my voicemails.  So I accessed my voicemail and listened to it. 

Turns out it was a friend of a friend, who was calling me to let me know that our mutual friends’ father had passed away.  Suddenly. 

Um, yeah.  Color me a heel. 

So now I’m a whole 24 hours late on hitching up the caring and sympathy wagon and calling one of my dearest friends to see what I can do.  Which, since I’m over two hours away from her, isn’t going to be much anyway, and yet I am hesitating to pick up the phone and call her.  Because I have no words for it.  Because not only am I not very adept at phone conversations, I am also very poor at knowing the right thing to say. 

Okay, so that’s two things I’m not very good at. 

 

— Mox

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